Maurice G. (Maurice Garland) Fulton.

National ideals and problems; essays for college English online

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young men will see and turn to a virile faith?


[John Dewey (1859 ) was bom at Burlington, Vermont. After com-
pleting his college work at the University of Vermont, he did post-graduate
work at Johns Hopkins University. From 1884-1904 he was a member of
the department of philosophy in the University of Michigan, being head of
the department during the latter part of this period. In 1902-4 he was
director of the school of education of the University of Chicago. Since 1904
he has been professor of philosophy in Columbia University.]

The words "nation" and "national" have two quite different
meanings. We cannot profitably discuss the nationalizing of
education unless we are clear as to the difference between the
two. For one meaning indicates something desirable, something
to be cultivated by education, while the other stands for some-
thing to be avoided as an evil plague. The idea which has
given the movement toward nationality, which has been such
a feature of the last century, its social vitality, is the conscious-
ness of a community of history and purpose larger than that of
the family, the parish, the sect, and the province. The upbuild-
ing of national states has substituted a unity of feeling and aim,
a freedom of intercourse, over wide areas, for earlier local isola-
tions, suspicions, jealousies, and hatreds. It has forced men out
of narrow sectionalism into membership in a larger social unit,

1 From Proceedings, National Education Association, 1916. Reprinted by permission.


and created loyalty to a state which subordinates petty and
selfish interests.

One cannot say this, however, without being at once reminded
that nationalism has had another side. With the possible
exception of our own country, the national states of the modern
world have been built up through conflict. The development of
a sense of unity within a charmed area has been accompanied
by dislike, by hostility, to all without. Skilful politicians and
other self-seekers have always known how to play cleverly upon
patriotism and upon ignorance of other peoples, to identify
nationalism with latent hatred of other nations. Without exag-
geration, the present world war may be said to be the out-
come of this aspect of nationalism, and to present it in its naked

In the past our geographical isolation has largely protected
us from the harsh, selfish, and exclusive aspect of nationalism.
The absence of pressure from without, the absence of active and
urgent rivalry and hostility of powerful neighbors, has perhaps
played a part in the failure to develop an adequate unity of
sentiment and idea for the country as a whole. Individualism
of a go-as-you-please type has had too full swing. We have
an inherited jealousy of any strong national governing agencies
and we have been inclined to let things drift rather than to think
out a central, controlling policy. But the effect of the war has
been to make us aware that the days of geographical isolation
are at an end, and also to make us conscious that we are lacking
in an integrated social sense and policy for our country as a whole,
irrespective of classes and sections.

We are now faced by the difficulty of developing the good
aspect of nationalism without its evil side of developing a
nationalism which is the friend and not the foe of international-
ism. Since this is a matter of ideas, of emotions, of intellectual
and moral disposition and outlook, it depends for its accomplish-
ment upon educational agencies, not upon outward machinery.
Among these educational agencies, the public school takes first
rank. When some tune in the remote future the tale is summed
up and the public, as distinct from the private and merely


personal, achievement of the common school is recorded, the
question which will have to be answered is, What has the
American public school done toward subordinating a local,
provincial, sectarian, and partisan spirit of mind to amis and
interests which are common to all the men and women of the
country to what extent has it taught men to think and feel in
ideas broad enough to be inclusive of the purposes and happiness
of all sections and classes? For unless the agencies which form
the mind and morals of the community can prevent the opera-
tion of those forces which are always making for a division of
interests, class and sectional ideas and feelings will become
dominant, and our democracy will fall to pieces.

Unfortunately at the present time one result of the excitement
which the war has produced is that many influential and well-
meaning persons attempt to foster the growth of an inclusive
nationalism by appeal to our fears, our suspicions, our jealousies,
and our latent hatreds. They would make the measure of our
national preparedness our readiness to meet other nations in
destructive war rather than our fitness to cooperate with them
in the constructive tasks of peace. They are so disturbed by what
has been revealed of internal division, of lack of complete national
integration, that they have lost faith in the slow policies of
education. They would kindle a sense of our dependence upon
one another by making us afraid of peoples outside of our border;
they would bring about unity within by laying stress upon our
separateness from others. The situation makes it all the more
necessary that those concerned with education should withstand
popular clamor for a nationalism based upon hysterical excited-
ness or mechanical drill, or a combination of the two. We must
ask what a real nationalism, a real Americanism, is like. For
unless we know our own character and purpose, we are not
likely to be intelligent in our selection of the means to further

I want to mention only two elements in the nationalism which
our education should cultivate. The first is that the American
nation is itself complex and compound. Strictly speaking, it is
interracial and international in its make-up. It is composed of


a multitude of peoples speaking different tongues, inheriting
diverse traditions, cherishing varying ideals of life. This fact
is basic to our nationalism as distinct from that of other peoples.
Our national motto, "One from Many," cuts deep and extends
far. It denotes a fact which doubtless adds to the difficulty of
getting a genuine unity. But it also immensely enriches the
possibilities of the result to be attained. No matter how loudly
anyone proclaims his Americanism, if he assumes that any one
racial strain, any one component culture, no matter how early
settled it was in our territory, or how effective it has proved in
its own land, is to furnish a pattern to which all other strains
and cultures are to conform, he is a traitor to an American nation-
alism. Our unity cannot be a homogeneous thing like that of the
separate states of Europe from which our population is drawn;
it must be a unity created by drawing out and composing into a
harmonious whole the best, the most characteristic, which each
contributing race and people has to offer.

I find that many who talk the loudest about the need of a
supreme and unified Americanism of spirit really mean some
special code or tradition to which they happen to be attached.
They have some pet tradition which they would impose upon
all. In thus measuring the scope of Americanism by some single
element which enters into it they are themselves false to the
spirit of America. Neither Englandism nor New Englandism,
neither Puritan nor Cavalier, any more than Teuton or Slav,
can do anything but furnish one note in a vast symphony.

The way to deal with hyphenism, in other words, is to wel-
come it, but to welcome it in the sense of extracting from each
people its special good, so that it shall surrender into a common
fund of wisdom and experience what it especially has to contri-
bute. All of these surrenders and contributions taken together
create the national spirit of America. The dangerous thing is
for each factor to isolate itself, to try to live off its past, and then
to attempt to impose itself upon other elements, or, at least, to
keep itself intact and thus refuse to accept what other cultures
have to offer, so as thereby to be transmuted into authentic


In what is rightly objected to as hyphenism, the hyphen has
become something which separates one people from other peo-
ples, and thereby prevents American nationalism. Such terms as
Irish-American or Hebrew-American or German-American are
false terms because they seem to assume something which is
already in existence called America, to which the other factor
may be externally hitched on. The fact is, the genuine American,
the typical American, is himself a hyphenated character. This
does not mean that he is part American and that some foreign
ingredient is then added. It means that, as I have said, he is
international and interracial in his make-up. He is not Ameri-
can plus Pole or German. But the American is himself Pole-
German-English-French-Spanish-Italian-Greek - Irish - Scandina-
vian-Bohemian-Jew and so on. The point is to see to it that the
hyphen connects instead of separates. And this means at least
that our public schools shall teach each factor to respect every
other, and shall take pains to enlighten all as to the great past
contributions of every strain in our composite make-up. I wish
our teaching of American history in the schools would take more
account of the great waves of migration by which our land for
over three centuries has been continuously built up, and made
every pupil conscious of the rich breadth of our national make-
up. When every pupil recognizes all the factors which have gone
into our being, he will continue to prize and reverence that com-
ing from his own past, but he will think of it as honored in being
simply one factor in forming a whole, nobler and finer than itself.

In short, unless our education is nationalized in a way which
recognizes that the peculiarity of our nationalism is its inter-
nationalism, we shall breed enmity and division in our frantic
efforts to secure unity. The teachers of the country know this
fact much better than do many of its politicians. While too often
politicians have been fostering a vicious hyphenatedism and
sectionalism as a bid for votes, teachers have been engaged in
transmuting beliefs and feelings once divided and opposed, into
a new thing under the sun a national spirit inclusive not exclu-
sive, friendly not jealous. This they have done by the influence
of personal contact, cooperative intercourse, and sharing in


common tasks and hopes. The teacher who has been an active
agent in furthering the common struggle of native-born, African,
Jew, Italian, and perhaps a score of other peoples, to attain eman-
cipation and enlightenment will never become a party to a con-
ception of America as a nation which conceives of its history and
its hopes as less broad than those of humanity let politicians
clamor for their own ends as they will.

The other point hi the constitution of a genuine American
nationalism to which I invite attention is that we have been
occupied during the greater part of our history in subduing
nature, not one another or other peoples. I once heard two
foreign visitors coming from different countries discuss what had
been impressed upon them as the chief trait of the American
people. One said vigor, youthful and buoyant energy. The other
said it was kindness, the disposition to live and let live, the
absence of envy at the success of others. I like to think that
while both of these ascribed traits have the same cause back of
them, the latter statement goes deeper. Not that we have more
virtue, native or acquired, than others, but that we have had
more room, more opportunity. Consequently, the same con-
ditions which have put a premium upon active and hopeful
energy have permitted the kindlier instincts of man to express
themselves. The spaciousness of a continent not previously
monopolized by man has stimulated vigor and has also diverted
activity from the struggle against fellowman into the struggle
against nature. When men make their gains by fighting in
common a wilderness, they have not the motive for mutual dis-
trust which comes when they get ahead only by fighting one
another. I recently heard a story which seems to me to have
something typical about it. Some manufacturers were discussing
the problem of labor. They were loud in their complaints. They
were bitter against the exactions of unions, and full of tales of an
inefficiency which seemed to them calculated. Then one of
them said: "Oh, well! Poor devils! They haven't much of a
chance and have to do what they can to hold their own. If
we were in their place, we should be just the same." And the
others nodded assent and the conversation lapsed. I call this


characteristic, for if there was not an ardent sympathy, there
was at least a spirit of toleration and passive recognition.

But with respect to this point as well as with respect to our
composite make-up, the situation is changing. We no longer
have a large unoccupied continent. Pioneer days are past, and
natural resources are possessed. There is danger that the same
causes which have set the hand of man against his neighbor
in other countries will have the same effect here. Instead of
sharing in a common fight against nature, we are already start-
ing to fight against one another, class against class, haves against
have-nots. The change puts a definite responsibility upon the
schools to sustain our true national spirit. The virtues of mutual
esteem, of human forbearance, and well-wishing, which in our
earlier days were the unconscious products of circumstances,
must now be the conscious fruit of an education which forms
the deepest springs of character.

Teachers, above all others, have occasion to be distressed
when the earlier idealism of welcome to the oppressed is treated
as a weak sentimentalism, when sympathy for the unfortunate
and those who have not had a fair chance is regarded as a weak
indulgence fatal to efficiency. Our traditional disposition in
these respects must now become a central motive in public
education, not as a matter of condescension or patronizing, but
an essential to the maintenance of a truly American spirit. All
this puts a responsibility upon the schools which can be met only
by widening the scope of educational facilities. The schools
have now to make up to the disinherited masses by conscious
instruction, by the development of personal power, skill, ability,
and initiative, for the loss of external opportunities consequent
upon the passing of our pioneer days. Otherwise power is likely
to pass more and more into the hands of the wealthy, and we
shall end with this same alliance between intellectual and artistic
culture and economic power due to riches, which has been the
curse of every civilization hi the past, and which our fathers in
their democratic idealism thought this nation was to put an
end to.

Since the idea of the nation is equal opportunity for all, to


nationalize education means to use the schools as a means for
making this idea effective. There was a time when this could be
done more or less well simply by providing schoolhouses, desks,
blackboards, and perhaps books. But that day has passed.
Opportunities can be equalized only as the schools make it
their active serious business to enable all alike to become
masters of their own industrial fate. That growing movement
which is called industrial or vocational education now hangs in
the scales. If it is so constructed in practice as to produce merely
more competent hands for subordinate clerical and shop
positions, if its purpose is shaped to drill boys and girls into
certain forms of automatic skill which will make them useful hi
carrying out the plans of others, it means that, instead of nation-
alizing education in the spirit of our nation, we have given up
the battle, and decided to refeudalize education.

I have said nothing about the point which my title most
naturally suggests changes in administrative methods which
will put the resources of the whole nation at the disposition of
the more backward and less fortunate portions, meaning by
resources not only money but expert advice and guidance of
every sort. I have no doubt that we shall move in the future
away from a merely regional control of the public schools in
the direction of a more central regulation. I say nothing about
this phase of the matter at this time, not only because it brings
up technical questions, but because this side of the matter is
but the body, the mechanism of a nationalized education. To
nationalize American education is to use education to promote
our national idea, which is the idea of democracy. This is the
soul, the spirit, of a nationalized education, and, unless the ad-
ministrative changes are executed so as to embody this soul,
they will mean simply the development of red tape, a mechanical
uniformity and a deadening supervision from above.

Just because the circumstances of the war have brought the
idea of the nation and the national to the foreground of every-
one's thoughts, the most important thing is to bear in mind that
there are nations and nations, this kind of nationalism and that.
Unless I am mistaken, there are some now using the cry of an


American nationalism, of an intensified national patriotism,
to further ideas which characterize the European nations,
especially those most active hi the war, but which are treasonable
to the ideal of our nation. Therefore, I have taken this part of
your time to remind you of the fact that our nation and democ-
racy are equivalent terms; that our democracy means amity and
good will to all humanity (including those beyond our border),
and equal opportunity for all within. Since as a nation we are
composed of representatives of all nations who have come here
to live in peace with one another and to escape the enmities and
jealousies which characterize Old World nations, to nationalize
our education means to make it an instrument in the active and
constant suppression of the war spirit and in the positive culti-
vation of sentiments of respect and friendship for all men and
women, wherever they live. Since our democracy means the
substitution of equal opportunity for all for the Old World
ideal of unequal opportunity for different classes, and the
limitation of the individual by the class to which he belongs, to
nationalize our education is to make the public school an ener-
getic and willing instrument in developing initiative, courage,
power, and personal ability in each individual. If we can get our
education nationalized in spirit in these directions, the national-
izing of the administrative machinery will in the end take care
of itself. So I appeal to teachers in the face of every hysterical
wave of emotion, and of every subtle appeal of sinister class
interest, to remember that they, above all others, are the con-
secrated servants of the democratic ideas in which alone this
country is truly a distinctive nation ideas of friendly and
helpful intercourse between all and the equipment of every
individual to serve the community by bis own best powers in
his own best way.



[Elihu Root (1845 ) was born in Clinton, New York. After being

graduated from Hamilton College, he studied law and has practised his pro-
fession during the greater part of his life in New York City. He entered public
life as secretary of war under President McKinley, and was secretary of
state during President Roosevelt's administration. After serving one term
as senator from New York, he resumed the practice of law. He has distin-
guished himself signally both as a lawyer and a publicist. His lectures at
Princeton University in 1913 under the Stafford Little Endowment from
which the selection here given is taken were forcible pleas for caution in
adopting innovations in government.]

There are two separate processes going on among the civilized
nations at the present time. One is an assault by Socialism
against the individualism which underlies the social system of
western civilization. The other is an assault against existing
institutions upon the ground that they do not adequately pro-
tect and develop the existing social order. It is of this latter
process in our own country that I wish to speak, and I assume
an agreement that the right of individual liberty and the in-
separable right of private property which lie at the foundation
of our modern civilization ought to be maintained.

The conditions of life in America have changed very much
since the Constitution of the United States was adopted. In
1787 each state entering into the Federal Union had preserved
the separate organic life of the original colony. Each had its
center of social and business and political life. Each was sepa-
rated from the others by the barriers of slow and difficult com-

iFrom Experiments in Government. (Copyright, 1913, Princeton University Press.)
Reprinted by permission.



munication. In a vast territory, without railroads or steamships
or telegraph or telephone, each community lived within itself.

Now, there has been a general social and industrial rearrange-
ment. Production and commerce pay no attention to state lines.
The life of the country is no longer grouped about state capi-
tals, but about the great centers of continental production and
trade. The organic growth which must ultimately determine
the form of institutions has been away from the mere union of
states toward the union of individuals in the relation of national

The same causes have greatly reduced the independence of
personal and family life. In the eighteenth century life was
simple. The producer and consumer were near together and
could find each other. Everyone who had an equivalent to give
in property or service could readily secure the support of him-
self and his family without asking anything from government
except the preservation of order. Today almost ah 1 Americans
are dependent upon the action of a great number of other per-
sons, mostly unknown. About half of our people are crowded
into the cities and large towns. Their food, clothes, fuel, light,
water all come from distant sources, of which they are in the
mam ignorant, through a vast, complicated machinery of pro-
duction and distribution with which they have little direct rela-
tion. If anything occurs to interfere with the working of the
machinery, the consumer is individually helpless. To be cer-
tain that he and his family may continue to live, he must seek
the power of combination with others, and in the end he in-
evitably calls upon that great combination of aU citizens which
we call government to do something more than merely keep the
peace to regulate the machinery of production and distribu-
tion and safeguard it from interference so that it shall continue
to work.

A similar change has taken place in the conditions under
which a great part of our people engage in the industries by
which they get their living. Under comparatively simple in-
dustrial conditions the relation between employer and employee
was mainly a relation of individual to individual, with individual


freedom of contract and freedom of opportunity essential to
equality in the commerce of life. Now, in the great manufactur-
ing, mining, and transportation industries of the country, in-
stead of the free give and take of individual contract, there is
substituted a vast system of collective bargaining between great
masses of men organized and acting through their representa-
tives, or the individual on the one side accepts what he can get
from superior power on the other. In the movement of these
mighty forces of organization the individual laborer, the indi-
vidual stockholder, the individual consumer, is helpless.

There has been another change of conditions through the
development of political organization. The theory of political
activity which had its origin approximately in the administra-
tion of President Jackson, and which is characterized by Marcy's
declaration that "to the victors belong the spoils," tended to

Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 27 of 39)